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SACOSS Research Project on independence in the not-for-profit sector

Independence in the not-for-profit sector: A Scoping study

Independence is a commonly held value which is sometimes even treated as a defining feature of the not-for-profit sector. Maintaining the independence of the not-for-profit sector is included in Object 2 of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) Act (2012): ‘to support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative Australian not-for-profit sector.’ But ‘independence’ can mean different things in different contexts. The purpose of this research project is to investigate the meaning(s) of independence and how it can be better supported and sustained, by the ACNC in particular, and more widely.

The project began in 2013 and will conclude in 2014. It will include primary research with representatives from the sector and the ACNC to explore the different ways in which independence is understood, if and what threatens independence, and what could be done to better support and sustain independence. The primary research will aim to reflect the diversity of organisations and organisational types that make up the sector. Towards this end, one of the key issues explored will be whether understandings of independence and threats to it differ across the sector as determined by organisational size.

The research includes a series of interviews with ACNC staff, and focus groups and one-one-one interviews with representatives from the not-for-profit sector.

The research findings will be documented as a report that will be made available on the ACNC website. Research findings will also be written up as a paper to be published in the journal Third Sector Review.

For further information and updates on this project, contact sacoss@sacoss.org.au.